- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

I am looking at the future: a personal computer that doesn’t include Times New Roman.

In its place, there is “Calibri,” the typeface Microsoft Corp. thinks will be easier on the eyes than letters distinguished by serifs, such as those used in the typeface in this newspaper.

That’s a small distinction, I am sure, and one that may not matter much to many readers. And, if you click on the “Font” panel atop the screen, you can switch over to Times New Roman, or any of a dozen other typefaces, without hassle.

But it’s the first thing that hits as you begin to type with Microsoft Word 2007, and it’ll take some getting used to, I think.

Less surprising is the clean, crisp look of the Word screen, with a quick-access toolbar at the very top, and then a palette of choices below.

The choices are grouped in “tabbed” menus: “Home” will show you the clipboard, font, paragraph, style and editing menus; there are other tabs to determine the insertion of text, tables and graphics; page layout; references; mail merge and envelopes; document review and a “view” menu that offers a host of options. I had to do some searching to find the “e-mail this document” option; the “File” menu is now a circle with the Office logo in it. Feh.

In most cases, all of these work quite well: I can’t recall any other word processor, in roughly 23 years of using such programs, that offers as many reference options, and as easily, as this one does. Scholars, lawyers and their associates likely will rejoice at this development. Term papers and other documents should be a breeze with this sort of tool availability. It’s very impressive.

The other editing tools are equally impressive; however, the “zoom” panel requires more than one step to enlarge text on a screen to the width of the page, something aging baby boomers may want in lieu of stronger eyewear prescriptions.

On closer inspection, there’s a small “slider” in the lower right corner that’ll adjust type size from 10 percent to 500 percent. At settings above the page width, however, the text won’t “wrap” to fit the screen, but rather scroll back and forth as you type.

The layout of the program screen is duplicated across the Office 2007 program range, with similar appearances found in the firm’s 2007 versions of PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and Access. It’ll take some getting used to, I guess, but it all seems fresher and brighter than the Windows versions users have struggled with over the years.

I have the feeling that I’ll like PowerPoint’s new incarnation. It seems a bit friendlier and the “default” layouts are fresh. Apple’s “Keynote” it’s not, but in terms of approach and ease of use, it certainly seems better.

There’s one final surprise: Word 2007’s “default” file format is not backward compatible, or cross-platform-friendly to Mac versions of Word.

Those who want to share files with non-2007 users will need to save them in an “older” format. Ironically, when such files are opened on another computer, the Times New Roman typeface returns as the “default.”

You can find out more about Office 2007 at www.microsoft.com/office/preview/default.mspx, and, despite the occasional surprise, I think this is one new program worth checking out.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily on The Washington Times’ Web site, at https://www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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